Last week, we wrote about the healthy habits of poker players. This week, we put it into practice by bringing you the interview with Espen Uhlen Jørstad, a poker pro and Unibet Poker Ambassador from Norway, currently living in Tallinn, Estonia. The interview will focus on his healthy habits with regard to his poker life-style. We are hoping that some of you will find it inspiring. After all, tips coming from a strong player, who is sharp and appears to be in control at all times, are something worth taking in.
Hi, Espen! How are you today? Enjoying the spring that is finally here?
Hi! I’m all good! I just came back to Tallinn after spending a couple of weeks abroad. I was one week in Barcelona, followed by a week in Malta playing the Unibet Open there. Sad to say, the weather was actually better in Tallinn than in Barcelona and Malta during this period.
What’s planned for your poker summer?
I’m trying to decide if I am going to Vegas or not for the summer. If I end up skipping Vegas, I’ll be spending most of the summer here in Tallinn, studying and playing a lot of online poker. I’ve been traveling a lot so far this year, and I definitely would like to spend some time at home in Tallinn, and get back to “routine life” for a while.
What is your opinion on the increasing numbers of health-conscious poker players? A good old skill does not cut it anymore?
As the average player is getting better and better, the theoretical edges are getting smaller and smaller. Smart players will, indeed, try to find their edge in other areas than poker theory, and one that a lot of players have been focusing on is mental game. Mental game can be many things, of course. Avoiding tilt, playing A-game more often and for longer periods, getting enough volume in, etc. I find that the healthier I am, the easier it is to get better at all of these areas.
Any player whose healthy habits impress you a lot? What habits particularly?
Both of my room mates at the moment (Rauno Tahvonen and Rauno Kiviloo) inspire me a lot with their healthy habits. Daily morning exercises (yoga, stretching etc), breathing exercises, meditation and healthy diets. Tahvonen is the most extreme I guess, eating a vegetarian based diet, with absolutely no alcohol, no tobacco and no drugs.
What are the weirdest or funniest healthy habits that you’ve heard of?
As I have gotten more and more open-minded over the last few years, it’s hard for me to think of anything as weird these days. Tahvonen slams his chest while doing his breathing exercises. I guess that part is pretty weird.
You look super relaxed, yet sharp and focused, in live cash game scenes? Is it the result of your fixed daily routines?
To be honest, I would agree with the relaxed part but maybe not so much with the focused and sharp part. I find that I can be “sharp and focused” in any given hand, but I struggle with paying 100% attention to what is going on in the hands I am not involved in. I enjoy talking to the other players at the table, and the whole social aspect when playing live poker.
We know that you have been through some major changes in your life-style. When exactly did the change happen and what inspired you to take up a whole new life-style?
I guess it happened periodically. I went into the Norwegian army for a year when I was 18 or so. During that year, I lost 18 kg and improved my health quite a bit. But after the army, I was still doing a lot of partying and not living particularly healthy. I was going to the gym and stuff, but I was basically just fat and strong. Over the past few years my focus has shifted, and I don’t really care that much about lifting heavy weights anymore. Now, it’s more about being flexible and agile while maintaining a decent level of strength. I’ll be honest, in the beginning, my inspiration was very shallow as improving my appearance was the main driver. I basically just wanted more sexual attention from girls. I guess, I was trying to overcompensate for my past, when I was an overweight lvl 60 Paladin, literally getting zero attention from girls (unless they played World of Warcraft). There is still a part of me that cares quite a bit about physical appearance, attention from girls etc., but as I am getting older (and wiser) I am also more and more focused on the health benefits of staying fit.
When did you find mindful meditation and how or why does it help to play better?
I found it 2-3 years ago, and have been on and off since then. Sometimes, I do it every day and at other times, I can go for a month without meditating even once. I can’t say for sure that it helps me play better, as I think you need to practice it consistently for quite a while before you get any real benefits. One of my goals for this year was to do it for the minimum of 10 minutes each day, but, unfortunately I cannot say that I have been able to do this.
How do you prepare for an online grind? Exercise, food choices etc.
I try to do all my chores early in the day, so I have a “clear mind” before I begin the grind. This means going to the gym, studying, checking emails, social media, eating a couple of proper meals and consuming a bit too much coffee. Also meditation … in theory, at least.
What are your food choices for enhancing your performance?
Nothing exciting here. When I am at home in Tallinn, I have a few staple foods like eggs, chicken, salmon, pork, vegetables, fruits, nuts, skyr, cottage cheese and oatmeal. Oh, and dark chocolate. When I travel, my diet tends to get a bit more out of the line. I am a sucker for desserts.
Everybody has one, so what is your guilty pleasure food?
Pancakes with sour cream, strawberry jam and bacon.
How do you manage your sleeping schedule?
I don’t. Well, I guess, I try sometimes. But as with everything else, it gets quite out of hand when I am traveling. Standard is probably to sleep from 3 am to 11 am.
Alcohol – does it help or hurt poker?
I guess if you are very uncomfortable or anxious at the table, one beer can help to take some edge off. Most people don’t drink one beer, though, and I definitely think skill levels quickly deteriorate past that 1-beer mark.
Do you have some go to food supplements or it’s all about food?
I take Vitamin-D3 pretty much all year round, but especially make sure I get it in during the winter months. With the exception of D3, I don’t consume a lot of supplements. Fish oil sometimes, and BCAA sometimes.
If there’s one healthy thing that every serious poker player needs to do every day then what would you suggest?
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